Flu jab cuts premature baby risks
Flu vaccination can reduce the chances of women giving birth to small or premature babies, a study has shown.
Scientists in the US found that the flu jab cut the odds of premature birth by around 70pc.
The research, based on an analysis of more than 4,000 mother-baby pairs, adds to previous evidence of a link between infection and early birth.
Inflammatory responses by the immune system are thought to explain the association.
The new study looked at babies born during the flu season from October to May. Researchers found that babies of vaccinated mothers were significantly less likely to be premature or unusually small than those whose mothers did not have the flu jab.
Dr Saad Omer, from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, wrote in the online journal Public Library of Science Medicine: "This study demonstrates an association between immunisation with inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy and reduced likelihood of prematurity.
"For births during the eight weeks of widespread influenza activity, the odds of prematurity were approximately 70pc lower among the newborns of the vaccinated mothers compared to mothers who did not receive the influenza vaccine."
The strength of the protective effect rose with the intensity of flu activity, said the researchers.
No statistically significant effect was seen when no widespread flu was present.
Previous research has suggested a link between infection during pregnancy and pre-term birth.
One study found that newborn babies of women affected by pandemic Asian flu in 1957-58 were 50pc more likely to be premature than those of women who escaped the virus.